relatives

The facts

“You see, my aunt’s coming on Saturday, dear,” said Mrs Brown, “and I keep putting off telling your father. He does so hate having people staying in the house.”
William’s brow wove itself into an intricate pattern as he pondered on the situation. “Couldn’t you sort of hide her up somewhere in secret without him knowing?” he suggested at last. “Same as people did with exiles an’ Cavaliers an’ rebels an’ Roundheads in hist’ry.”

Verdict

When William’s father is having one of his characteristic meltdowns about household finances, he rather misguidedly ponders the possibility of taking in a “paying guest”, ie a lodger. William considers this to be an excellent idea, especially once he discovers that his neighbours have a paying guest who regularly supplies the children of the household with ice-cream.

So he sets out to find one, and in these days before Rightmove.com, he goes for the fairly direct approach of walking up to the first stranger he sees in the village and asking, “’Scuse me, are you a PG?” Unfortunately she is, and was on her way to her new host family until William diverts her to his.

Mr Brown snatched up another bill. “Why does that boy have to have a new pair of shoes every day of the year?” he roared.
“He doesn’t dear,” said Mrs Brown, “but sometimes things happen to them.”
“They sort of got caught up in a bonfire,” explained William apologetically.

Mr Brown is not especially surprised to see this prim elderly lady walk up his driveway, because he’s been expecting a visit from his wife’s aunt (they’ve never met), and this woman confirms all his worst fears.

Miss Privet went to the bed and felt the mattress. “Reasonably comfortable,” she said.
Mr Brown gulped and swallowed and again, by a supreme effort of will, managed to remain silent.
Miss Privet was now switching the bedside light on and off. “Too strong,” she said. “I like a twenty-five watt bulb for the bedside light.” She opened the cupboard that contained the overflow of Mrs Brown’s wardrobe. “I shall need all this space. Will you please have all these clothes removed?”
Mr Brown’s face was purple with his efforts at self control.

It all gets sorted out eventually (and to Mr Brown’s delight, the real aunt is a dream guest compared to Miss Privet), but not before William’s tried some complicated scheme involving dressing up as a spaceman to scare the unwanted paying guest away.

 The facts

“Hi!” panted Ginger. “Don’t run so fast. I can’t keep up with you.”
“Well, don’t talk so much,” said William. “You oughter save your breath for runnin’ same as me. I’m not talkin’ all the time. I’m savin’ my breath
for runnin’.”
“You’ve never stopped talkin’ since we started,” Ginger reminded him. “I say! Let’s pretend there’s a herd of wolves after us. That oughter make us run quicker.”
“I’m not scared of wolves,” said William. “I bet if wolves were after us I’d jus’ turn round an’ kill ’em one after the other.”
“You’ve got nothin’ to kill ’em with.”
“I’d strangle ’em. I’ve got jolly strong hands. I can unscrew tops of tins an’ things what my mother can’t.”
“You’d find a wolf jolly diff’rent from the top of a tin.”

  • Number: 27.7
  • Published: 1950 (1948 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Bold
  • Synopsis: William and Ginger accidentally stop a train, and fall victim to Hubert the master blackmailer.

Verdict

William and Ginger buy a magnificent pen-knife, whose most magnificent feature is “a thing for takin’ stones out of a horse’s hoof” (“You never know when you’ll get a horse”) – although their first act on receiving it is to test said tool on a horse which neither needs nor wants a stone taken out of its hoof. They get kicked across the road and then chased by an irate horseman (the description of whom as a “black-faced giant” is, I suspect/ hope, more a reference to their class and trade than to their ethnicity).

Hubert also wanted the knife, for no reason other than spite, and the Outlaws hand him the perfect leverage when they (from the best of intentions) stop a train – the 4:40 – unnecessarily and imagine that they must thenceforth be fugitives for the rest of their lives. In fact, Hubert blackmails William for many posssessions; again, for no reason other than spite.

“I’m feeling jolly ill. I’ve got an awful pain in my backand in my stomach an’…” – he paused for a moment, decided that it would be foolish to risk omitting any convincing illness by understatement, and went on – “an’ in my legs an’ in both my arms an’… an’ in my head.” He paused again and added simply, “I’ve got toothache too.”
William!” said Mrs Brown incredulously.

Affairs come to a head when Hubert and William are both invited to the same tea party as Robert and his crush of the moment:

“Hubert Lane!” said William in disgust. “Fancy anyone askin’ Hubert Lane to tea!”
“I’d a darn sight sooner have Hubert Lane to tea than you,” said Robert. “He doesn’t eat like something out of the zoo.”
“No, he eats like something in it,” said William, and was so delighted at his own wit that a bland smile overspread his countenance and the heavy weight lifted itself for a moment from his spirit.

But the hostess is indebted to William for reasons of her own…

The facts

“It’s a long time since we did anything about the war,” said William.

  • Number: 25.10
  • Published: 1945 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William and the Brains Trust
  • Synopsis: William tries to help the war effort using a shapeless toy knitted by Aunt Florence.

Verdict

The Outlaws organise a bring-and-buy sale “in ade of the Prisoners of War”.

The sight of Aunt Florence knitting at the open window gave William an idea.
Aunt Florence noticed a stream of village children passing the window and gazing in at her. To each she gave a pleasant greeting, murmuring at intervals: “So nice and friendly, these country children.” She did not know, of course, that above the open window was fixed a notice: “WOT IS SHE NITTING NOW? PENNY A GESS. PRIZE FOR WINER.”

But two things go wrong; firstly, the boys of the village are far more interested in swapping toys than in buying them (leading to very little benefit for prisoners of war). And, more seriously, Aunt Florence is staying with the Browns and keen to help. Aunt Florence has recently read a book on toy-making, but even with the benefit of such expert knowledge she still manages to knit only a “shapeless repulsive object”.

William rather cleverly manages to turn Aunt Florence’s contribution from an embarassment into a triumph by holding a popular competition: “The green mistry. Wot is it? Penny to ges. Prize to winer.”